The Book of Bamidbar — "In the Desert" — begins with G-d commanding Moshe to take a census of all men over age twenty — old enough for service. The count reveals just over 600,000. The levi'im are counted separately later because their service will be unique. They will be responsible for transporting the Mishkan and its furnishings and assembling them when the nation encamps. The 12 Tribes of Israel, each with its banner, are arranged around the Mishkan in four sections: east, south, west and north. Since Levi is singled out, the tribe of Yosef is split into two tribes, Efraim and Menashe, so there will be four groups of three. When the nation travels, they march in a formation similar to the way they camp. A formal transfer is made between the first-born and the levi'im, whereby the levi'im take over the role the first-born would have had serving in the Mishkan if not for the sin of the golden calf. The transfer is made using all the 22,000 surveyed levi'im from one month old and up. Only levi'im between 30 and 50 will work in the Mishkan. The remaining first-born sons are redeemed with silver, similar to the way we redeem our first-born today. The sons of Levi are divided into three main families, Gershon, Kehat and Merari (besides the kohanim — the special division from Kehat's family). The family of Kehat carried the menorah, the table, the altar and the holy ark. Because of their utmost sanctity, the ark and the altar are covered only by Aharon and his sons, before the levi'im prepare them for travel.
Not Another Brick In The Wall
“According the number of their names” (1:2)
There's nothing quite like the sound of a full symphony orchestra.
Music has this wonderful quality that you can listen to it in different ways. You can listen to the overall effect and you can also listen to each individual part of the arrangement, enjoying the melody of each individual musical strain. Then you can take that strain and see how it melds together with all the other strains to build the overall sound picture.
“...according the number of their names.”
Ostensibly, the idea of “number” and the concept of a “name” are antithetical.
A number is anonymous, even faceless and lacking in identity. A name, on the other hand, is the essence of separateness and individual identity.
The Torah was given to the Jewish People “according to the number of their names.” It was given both individually and collectively.
The Jewish People are an indivisible unit, and each individual makes up the sum of the whole, of the “klal”. On the other hand, each individual is more than just a brick in this "wall of sound". Each Jew is dear to G-d, precious and special.
The spiritual Masters teach, “Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said, ‘From where is it evident that if the Jewish People were lacking even one person the Divine Presence would not have been revealed to them? From the verse, "For on the third day G-d came down in the eyes of all the people to Mount Sinai." If even one person had not been there, if even one violin had been absent, the symphony of Mount Sinai would never have been heard.
Based on Rabbi Shimshon Pincus; Midrash Devarim Rabba 7:5